How This CEO Went Beyond Her Comfort Zone To Turn Her Dreams Into Reality​

Author and CEO Teneshia Jackson Warner shares simple steps for 'Dreamers.'


Adulting can be frustrating and challenging, and we all know that life gets super-hectic. Before you know it, you're too busy juggling bills, taking care of family obligations, managing everyday responsibilities, and putting out workplace fires to even think about anything close to career dreams. That's something you did as a kid, with nothing but homework, school crushes, and puberty to fret about.

Well, we beg to differ. Taking the time to not only acknowledge your wildest dreams of success, prosperity, and happiness but work toward making those dreams reality is important now more than ever. "I'm a true believer that we are human beings who are meant to grow and expand, evolve and meet new versions of ourselves over and over and over again," says Teneshia Jackson Warner, CEO of EGAMI Group and founder of The Dream Project.

Courtesy of EGAMI Group

Jackson Warner wrote The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals, and Create Your Own Success, a book that was sparked by her own story of unapologetically dreaming big and working toward bringing career dreams to life. "I am the definition of a dreamer. I came to New York City with two bags, a Bible, and a big dream, not knowing a soul."

Early in her career, she worked as a project manager at IBM Global Services before moving on to become a general manager at Rush Communications. She then stepped out on faith to launch her own company, offering dynamic marketing strategies for major brands including Hennessy and Procter & Gamble.

"Fast-forward 17 years later: I'm in my own New York office with my own team and partners. That was a dream for me," she adds. "I wanted to be able to share any insights I've learned along the way to equip other dreamers to live the life that they dream about. I had to personally stretch outside of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith and it panned out."

Through The Dream Project, she has curated and interviewed more than 200 business, entertainment, and community leaders, from tycoon Magic Johnson to Rent the Runway founder Jennifer Fleiss. "In interviewing them or having them participate on our panels, I found that there were some universal truths across all of their journeys. My goal was to take some of those universal principles and make them digestible and simple for any dreamer to apply on their journey."

So, what can you actually do to get dreams out of your head and into real life? We know, it's great to be motivated by inspirational quotes or inspired by success stories, but what's the plan, sis? We've got you covered.

Read below to find out more about Jackson Warner's 5 types of "Career Dreamers" and how you can begin to tap into your own journey of advancement:

What are the 'Dreamer' types, and how do we know which one we might be?

Teneshia Jackson Warner: There's the 'Careerpreneur Dreamer' and this is someone who finds it important to align their passion with their day-to-day job. They don't necessarily have the same risk tolerance as an entrepreneurial person who will risk it all in the name of a dream. They are able to thrive in corporate structures or environments where there's an infrastructure and process. The 'Make It Happen Dreamer' thrives in risky environments. These people are visionaries, and they like to work for themselves. They're willing to take the risk that comes with that.

A 'Hobby Dreamer' is a professional or entrepreneur who is working in their business area, and, while they have other passions, they do not want to put the burden on their passions to take care of their families. They want to nurture their passions, but they're not going to make them the main income stream.

The 'Activist Dreamer' is a person who has the ability to see a problem in the world—a community challenge, societal issue, or social injustice—and they are compelled to do something. They will start a nonprofit or movement and dedicate their lives to [addressing] issues that impact our world.

The 'CEO Dreamer' is someone who has worked a significant amount of time in the corporate structure and they've always known that they want to be their own boss. They've made the transition from that corporate environment or that traditional work setting into a more entrepreneurial model, taking what they've learned to thrive in venturing out on their own.

You detail how a 'career stretch' is necessary in order to turn a dream into reality. What does this entail?

The career stretch is the distance between your comfort zone and your dream. Once you begin to stretch, you're expanding outside of that comfort zone. It's the expansion that is necessary for you to meet another version of yourself. I'm a big believer that you must make sure you're constantly evolving in all areas of your career.

What specifically can we do to initiate the 'stretch' and turn career dreams into reality?

My book is broken into phases. For a 'Careerpreneur Dreamer,' for example, we start by focusing on the "Dream" phase where you reflect and do some soul-searching about where you are and what's next. You really challenge yourself to do some thinking. Is the dream really yours or are you living out a dream that has expired but is safe? I encourage you to write it down and make it plain.

Second, give yourself the space to dream again. In that phase, you identify your ideal dream environment and get intentional about immersing yourself in those environments. There are other activities in that phase as well such as detoxing poor habits and taking a look at your 'Family Dreamers Ancestry' to determine what you were taught about dreaming. Were there any areas where you have limiting beliefs that might be holding you back?

Think about the end of 2022 and ask yourself, 'What are some things that I wish to accomplish but then that will move you forward to reach that dream in your career?' The "Design" phase is about taking the big-idea dream and quantifying it in a plan that can be measured. Think about that goal you want to accomplish, and think of things you need to do in the next 90 days.

It could be, 'I'm going to hire a recruiter,' or 'I'm going to commit to sending my resume to a minimum of 10 companies a week.' You map measurable goals over that time period. Be sure your goals are attainable, relevant, time-based, and specific and that the plan is as well.

Then it's the "Dare" phase in which you get comfortable with making daring moves. Let's say you think, 'I don't do well pitching,' or 'I don't do well asking for support.' This is where you have to work on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in making daring moves in the name of the dream, and you strengthen your boldness with exercises.

The last is the "Do" phase. If you're really serious about making the 'Career Stretch' a lifestyle, you really need to be willing to stick with your dream plan for the long-term—even after the first time you lack funding, hear a no, or face an unexpected blow like the pandemic. You have to have the toughness, tenacity, and mental exercises in order to combat those obstacles when they come.

You're willing to become a 'Dream Warrior' to fight the challenges that stand between you and your dream.

How can young professionals today execute these phases, especially those who have not had the traditional in-person workplace or professional experience due to the pandemic? 

Part of your job as the leader and champion of your career is to be intentional on how you build your network and be resourceful regardless of the times. If you're still in a completely remote environment, invite people to a 10-minute coffee conversation over Zoom. Send them a digital card for Starbucks. Challenge yourself to do those virtual meet-ups. I even take lunch with a person over Zoom. I call them 'Chew and Chats,' and again, lunch is on me. Create those connections, even virtually.

Also, the world is now open again in a hybrid model, and while I do think we will embrace and define new ways of working, human connection and collaboration will always be important. Keeping safety first, of course, I challenge everyone to get back out there. I took six weeks to do what I call a 'purposeful connection tour,' where I intentionally went back to building a human connection with partners, team members, and clients. And before talking business, it was about re-sparking that human connection.

It not only warmed my heart, it warmed theirs. Step away from Zoom. People do business with people, not Zoom boxes. Get outside!

Find out more about Teneshia Jackson Warner on IG @TeneshiaJWarner or via her website.

Featured image courtesy of Egami Group

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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